Today’s gospel poignantly illustrates how the activities and practices of our lives, even when they are unquestionably good and proper, can sometimes distract us from all the manifestations of God’s loveliness and graciousness so that we no longer realize how stupendously blessed we really are. Because we don’t see what we need to see, we miss the gifts that are all around us, especially the Gift-giver from whom all good things come.
In this gospel scene, some people, genuinely perplexed, approach Jesus, wondering why the disciples of John the Baptist as well as disciples of the Pharisees regularly fast while, when it comes to fasting, Jesus’ disciples seem pretty carefree. Jesus’ response (“How can the guests at a wedding fast as long as the groom is among them?”) lets them know that to draw away in fasting while he is in their midst is to completely misread the moment. People who fast at weddings when they ought to be feasting don’t have their priorities straight. How can they fast when Jesus is right before them? How can they keep from joyous celebration when the one who promises them everything is in their midst? At that moment, is fasting even defensible?
Like the misguided wedding guests in this gospel parable, we too can get so wrapped up in the habits and routines of our lives—or just the sheer busyness of life—that we grow numb to the outbursts of grace and goodness, of love and kindness, that happen all the time. Jesus reminds us that if our routines and practices dull us to the beckoning presence of God in our lives, then we need to fast and abstain from those routines and practices lest we miss the feast to which God calls us each day, the “feast” that is Jesus always among us, ready and eager to bless.
Paul J. Wadell is Professor Emeritus of Theology & Religious Studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, and a member of the Passionist Family.